Hydrogen Peroxide for Wound Cleaning: Water's Better!

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Hydrogen Peroxide for Wound Cleaning: Water’s Better!

Hydrogen peroxide can damage healthy cells when you use it to clean a wound, this doctor says. Here’s his advice on minor wound treatment–starting with plain old water.

[Editor's note: This article was originally hosted on MyFamilyDoctorMag.com, our sister site.
It's now featured here as part of our new general-health section.]

first-aid-kitby John Torres, M.D.

Q. Is hydrogen peroxide good for cleaning minor cuts?

A. For years, people have used hydrogen peroxide to clean out wounds. Sometimes it’s used straight and other times diluted with water. Either way, its bubbling action makes it look like it’s doing its job by loosening up dead material and cleaning out bad bacteria.

The problem is that hydrogen peroxide not only does this but also damages the healthy cells trying to heal the wound. It can therefore slow down healing, making the wound stay open longer, which can lead to more infections.

To clean out a cut right after it happens, run it under tap water for a few minutes-until all the debris is gone. Later on, as the wound starts to heal, you can use water or over-the-counter wound cleaners to keep it clean. One is essentially as good as the other on clean wounds or ones with limited scabbing. With extensive scabs, cleaners, like ConvaTec Shur-Clens Wound Cleanser, can help you keep the wound debris-free.

Using an antibacterial ointment for the first seven days of healing can also help keep it from getting infected. If you have dried blood around the wound, a solution of half water, half hydrogen peroxide will get it off better than water. Just don’t get it in the wound.

Of course, see a health-care provider for individual advice or for treatment if the cut is bad.

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Board-certified emergency-medicine physician
JOHN TORRES, M.D., is the medical director and owner of Premier Urgent Care in Monument, Colo., and medical anchor at KDVR-TV (Fox) in Denver.

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Original article appeared in the September/October 2009 issue of My Family Doctor magazine.

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  • A REAL DOCTOR

    “M.D.”? Has the MORON who wrote this article taken a much less chemistry course a biochemistry course?
    I highly doubt it. Obviously H202 is a GOOD idea to clean wounds. TAP WATER. SERIOUSLY?!?!? TAP WATER now has more bacteria, heavy metals, carcinogens, that anything little brown bottle has ever or will ever have. That said does anyone know if USP is actually policed these days?
    I refuse to waste my time collecting citations to refute someones clearly ignorant opinion.
    Thank GOD for peer review.

  • Roman

    you might want to read this article in regards to H2O2 in wound healing. low concentrations of H2O2 actually aid wound healing, closure and angiogenesis.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3496701/

    • A REAL DOCTOR

      Roman, you are far more patient than I am with charlatans.

    • http://thesurvivaldoctor.com/ James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      Thanks, Roman. That’s an interesting study. I do see that it was the very very dilute hydrogen peroxide that aided in healing. On a similar note, when honey is applied to wounds it produces a very dilute hydrogen peroxide. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons it promotes healing also. http://www.thesurvivaldoctor.com/2011/10/15/honey-as-an-antibiotic-ointment-treatment-for-wounds/

      • A REAL DOCTOR

        “Even though H2O2 at 166 mM delayed wound closure
        initially, the wound closure rate accelerated during the latter part of
        the healing process and there were no differences in wound size by day 8
        and day 10 when compared to control mice”

        I will ignore the faulty conclusions. Yours and the researcher. The data clearly speaks to the point.

      • A REAL DOCTOR

        “Pharmacologically, this concentration is also equivalent to a 0.5% solution of H2O2, which is similar to the concentrations commonly used for disinfection (0.5 to 3%). ”

        DID YOU EVEN READ THE ARTICLE? Quit self referencing.